Quattro GmbH’s (now Audi Sport) quest to build a nominal range-topper for each and every one of Audi’s product lines continues apace.

With saloons, estates, coupés and cabriolets conquered, the industrious tuner has turned its attention to the Q-branded SUVs.

Rather than meet its rivals head on in the mid and large-size SUV segments, the bigwigs at Neckarsulm – compelled, no doubt, by Audi’s conveyor belt of product introductions and the growth of the market – have launched a compact SUV first in the 335bhp RS Q3, and, remarkably, found itself leading the charge.

With the BMW X1 currently unmolested by M division, and no Range Rover Evoque Sport in the running, there was nothing on the same rapidity scale as the Audi, until Mercedes-Benz rolled around with its A-Class-inspired GLA crossover which was handed over to AMG to create a 375bhp beast.

Aside from the functional concept created to preview the RS Q3, Quattro GmbH has not previously recreated one of Audi’s SUVs in its own image, even though the SQ5 and SQ7 both have some of Audi Sport's expertise.

The propulsive oddity that was the Q7 V12 TDI had been proposed as a suitable candidate for an RS badge, but the idea was apparently dismissed again almost as quickly.

Nevertheless, the division has a legacy of success with thick-set hardware of niche appeal. Its first road car was, after all, not the sinewy R8, but the decidedly boxy RS2.

By transplanting the 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine from the Audi RS3 – no great trick, given the shared bridgework – Audi has delivered a petrol powerhouse in an oil-burning sanctum.

All evidence suggests that the market will swell sufficiently to ingest such a model, but does that qualify it as trendsetter or unnecessary trade-off? Let’s find out.

Top 5 Pocket rockets

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster 2017
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    It's the slower and cheaper of the two AMG GT Roadsters, but these adjectives are harsh given this excellent open-top's broad range of talents
  • Mercedes AMG GT C Roadster 2017
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster arrives with an upgraded chassis over the Coupé and tweaks that make it even more thrilling to drive
  • First Drive
    29 March 2017
    Sporty GT Line styling gives Kia's city car the visual lift it needs to go toe-to-toe with its European rivals, and the 1.2-litre engine does a power of good for its drivability
  • Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI 110 SE Navigation
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    This is a first UK drive of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf, which comes with an updated infotainment system and a lower price. What's not to like?
  • Volkswagen Golf R
    First Drive
    29 March 2017
    A facelift for the fantastically capable all-rounder delivers more power and new tech to the cabin, improving on an already exceptional formula